Mental Health in YA
First off what is a Mental Disorder: Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning…mental illnesses are medical conditions that result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life
May was National Mental Health Awareness Month, which in my personal opinion should be all year but it got me thinking. As many as 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 adolescents have clinical depression, and/or other mental disorders. 1 in 8? if you take my graduating class and divide it by 8 that is almost 50 kids that suffer from some form of a mental illness. People often think that all mental illness has to be completely situational and that at its heart, mental illness must stem from some sort of trauma that explains why so-and-so is so sick. That isn't the case! Mental disorders are biological and most times appear when you are a young child.
Some facts about childhood mental disorders:
- Ten percent of children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment
- Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 – 44
- More than 90% of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder
- It is estimated that 60% of all persons with mental illness are willing to work but unable to over come the barriers
- Studies have noted that suicide was the second leading cause of death (after accidents) among children 12 to 17 years old.
Mental disorders aren't treated as a disorder. People think you can snap out of it, they don't realize that it is a real biological problem. Its emotions and chemical imbalances and so many other things. There is no OFF switch. People learn how to cope with their disorders. Society tries to brush it under the rug, like it is something you should be ashamed about. Let me tell you something, mental disorders aren't something to be ashamed of.
I've take a notice that more and more YA books have been taking on talking about mental health disorders. Depression, Eating disorders, Multiple Personalities, Schizophrenia and more are all being talked about now. This makes me so happy. During my childhood my parents and other people around me were very hush hush about it. It was something to be embarrassed about. Now, you hear about it much more then you use too. Even if it isn't always positive things. YA has managed to give someone who never knew what it was like to live with anxiety, or depression, or an eating disorder and giving the character a voice. Mental disorders is something that needs to be out there.
I recently read Made You Up by Francesca Zappia ("... Tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion,") Alex is a schizophrenic who can't tell the difference from real like and what isn't. She believes that the communists are out to get her and takes pictures to prove to herself what is real and what is fake. Before going into Made You Up, I knew what schizophrenia was. What I didn't know is how someone lived with it. Alex was a person, she wasn't a disorder. She was just a person that was a little different from everyone else.
I've composed a list of books with the help of some twitter followers on books where the main character has some form of a mental disorder:
What is your view on Mental Health in YA? Do you think it needs to be talked about more? Less? Let me know!